Our blood is a life-giving source that courses through our veins and supplies vital oxygen to our organs. It is produced in the bone marrow and consists of both red and white blood cells. The white blood cells or leucocytes keep our body protected against infections and sustain our immunity against disease. In a normal human body, the blood flows systematically keeping our body supplied with the right nutrients. However, sometimes due to unknown causes, when the blood-forming tissues including the bone marrow are affected by a cancer causing the abnormal increase in white blood cells, it is called leukemia. These abnormal white blood cells do not have the strength or the capacity to fight infections. Besides this, they also affect the bone marrow and prevent it from producing healthy red blood cells and platelets.
Leukemia is a rare blood disorder affecting less than a million people per year in India.
Though once believed to be a blood disorder affecting children, leukemia is seen to be more common among males.
This is no known prevention measures for leukemia. Fast – developing leukemia can be diagnosed depending on rapid onset of typical symptoms of frequent infections, tendency to bleed or bruise easily, fatigue, and weight loss. But, many suffering from this blood abnormality may not have symptoms. This is why it may be discovered during a random blood test.
Leukemia is of four different types and under the care of a cancer specialist it can be managed and treated depending on the stage of its progress. The four types of leukemia include Acute myeloid or myelogenous leukemia (AML), Chronic myeloid or myelogenous leukemia (CML), Acute lymphocytic or lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL).
While acute leukemia can be treated to send it into remission, Chronic leukemia has no known cure but can be managed and kept in check with chemotherapy, radiation therapy and stem cell transplant.
Fortis Hospitals Bannerghatta has been at the forefront of advanced treatment of all diseases. This is the profound speciality of this multi-speciality healthcare behemoth.
Even a rare cancer of the blood gets immense expert care and the best of treatment and facilities at Fortis Hospitals Bannerghatta. Equipped with contemporary state of the art technology to diagnose and treat all types of blood disorders, the excellent team of oncologists harness the best use of technological prowess and their expert experience to administer top-of-the-line treatment methodology.
Leukemia treatment at Fortis Hospitals Bannerghatta is a seamless process that involves a dedicated team of medical oncologists, haematologist, oncosurgeons, radiologists, and other specialists to make the treatment less tiring for patients. The team of expert physicians discuss and brainstorm on the best possible treatment for each patient according to his/her stage of the leukemia. Since each patient’s case history is different from another, treatment is customised to offer the best in the healthcare domain.
What makes Fortis Hospitals Bannerghatta the best in its class in the effective treatment of leukemia and other equally debilitating blood disorders includes the entire spectrum of care and treatment. Having the best of doctors who have their finger on the pulse of each ailment gives them that edge over the others in the field. In addition to their prolific medical talent is the Fortis motto of providing premium technological expertise. No wonder then that leukemia patients from across the globe throng Fortis Hospitals Bannerghatta seeking and receiving top-notch treatment and care with that trademark compassion.
Symptoms of leukemia may show up depending on the type of this blood disorder that afflicts the white blood cells. Some visible signs include:
Fever or chills from ‘flu
Frequent, severe infections
Swollen lymph nodes especially seen in the neck and armpits
Enlarged liver or spleen
Sudden or unexplained loss of weight
Persistent weakness or extreme fatigue
Tendency to bleed or bruise easily
Recurrent nose bleeds
Tiny pinpoint-sized red spots or rash on the skin known as petechiae
Night sweats or excessive sweating at night
Bone and joints pain
Taking into account most of these symptoms, if the doctor suspects leukemia, he will advise a blood test to check the abnormality if any in the white blood cells. Based on the diagnosis, he will administer a detailed check up to plan the best mode of treatment available at Fortis Hospitals Bannerghatta.
While this rare blood cancer is seen mostly in children, it shows up in adults too, especially in males. In adults, the typical age for the onset of leukemia is between 50 and 70 years. There are four types of leukemia and the one most commonly seen in adults is the Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL). In this leukemia type, the typical symptoms are:
Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL ) usually spreads to the lymph nodes lying close to the body’s surface. There could be lumps under the skin in the sides of the neck, the groin or in the arm pits.
With leukemia cells building up inside the joints or near the surface of the bones, this abnormal development could cause pain in the joints and bones.
Sometimes, though very rarely, ALL can spread to other organs such as the brain or spinal cord. This abnormal incidence could cause headaches, seizures, dizziness and trouble with maintaining balance, vomiting, blurred vision, or even facial numbness. If ALL spreads to the chest, it can cause an abnormal fluid build-up and difficulty in breathing.
ALL could spread to the liver and spleen causing them to enlarge. The bloated feeling after eating even a little could be pinpointed to ALL.
The thymus is a small organ in the middle of the chest behind the breast bone. It is located in front of the windpipe. When ALL afflicts the thymus, it enlarges and presses on the windpipe causing either coughing or difficulty in breathing.
It is in Nature that a male and female body differ anatomically. However, a woman’s body undergoes many more changes in her lifetime. That is why it is crucial to observe any sudden change that could be a sign of cancer in her body.
The typical symptoms of leukemia in women are similar to those in men, but, there could be excessive bleeding during menstruation leading to severe anaemia.
Some of the more common symptoms seen in women are:
With most of the healthy red cells destroyed due to the leukemia, there are fewer of them growing. This causes distinct paleness of the skin. Also, due to anaemia, women could also feel cold in the hands.
Leukemia is the most common form of cancer among children and affects them in early childhood. The majority of childhood leukemias are acquired diseases where the mutations in the genes and abnormalities in the chromosomes take place by chance and not hereditary. Though the risk factor is small, having a brother or sister with leukemia is a major risk factor in children.
While it is known that our immune system protects our body from illnesses including cancer, a defect or alteration in the immune system can cause leukemia. Children, who have inherited immunity problems, have undergone organ transplants and are on immune-suppressants, are at an increased risk for leukemia.
In order to arrive at the most precise diagnosis to allow no room for error, dedicated doctors at Fortis Hospitals Bannerghatta prescribe a few tests in addition to your complete medical history. The tests include Complete Blood Count (CBC), Bone Marrow Aspiration or biopsy, Blood chemistry, Liver and Kidney Function tests, Lymph node biopsy, Spinal tap, X Ray, CT Scan and MRI.
Your blood is drawn out and sent to the laboratory to check for a measurement of size, number, and maturity of different blood cells in a specific volume of blood. Any abnormality in the number of white blood cells can point out to leukemia.
This test involves drawing out a small amount of your bone marrow fluid or aspiration, or solid bone marrow tissue called a core biopsy. This sample will be examined for the number, size, and maturity of blood cells or any abnormal cells.
The swelling of the lymph nodes is often a sign of something going wrong in the body. To test for leukemia, a sample of tissue is removed from the lymph node and examined under a microscope for any abnormalities.
A small amount of cerebral spinal fluid is drawn out from the lower back or spinal canal. This is sent to the lab to test for leukemia cells or any other health problem.
An ultrasound is a high powered diagnostic imaging technique that is used to examine the internal organs and to check for the normal blood flow in our body. This method is one of the oldest diagnostic tools that uses high-frequency sound waves and a computer to create images of blood vessels, tissues, and organs.
CT or Computed tomography scan is a diagnostic imaging procedure that uses a combination of X-rays, computer technology and to produce horizontal, or axial, images (often called slices) of the body.
Magnetic resonance imaging is a diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies, and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body.
Acute Myeloid Leukemia
Chronic Myeloid (or Myelogenous) Leukemia
Acute Lymphocytic (or Lymphoblastic) Leukemia
Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia
Leukemia is treated and managed depending on the diagnosis of type of cancer, patient’s age, and the stage of its progression. Along with medications, this type of blood cancer can be treated in three ways through Chemotherapy, Radiation therapy and Stem cell or bone marrow transplant. Sometimes Immunotherapy is also prescribed.
The best of doctors form a team to treat leukemia and other cancers at Fortis Hospitals Bannerghatta.
While Chemotherapy is the main line of treatment for the different types of leukemia, other treatment methods like Stem cell transplant may be considered the best option for patients younger than 55 years. Since each case of leukemia varies from person to person depending on the genetics and the overall health, Targeted therapy is administered for some types of leukemia. Radiation therapy is most often used to prevent leukemia from spreading to, or to treat the disease that has spread to, the central nervous system (CNS). It is also used to prepare the bone marrow for stem cell transplant.
Since the patient’s family too undergoes severe stress during leukemia treatment, a team of counsellors are on hand to support and advise the caregiving family members on the cancer management and treatment procedures.
During the treatment and medication process, the team of expert oncologists constantly monitor the patient’s progress and recovery pattern through constant follow-ups and routine health checkups.
This treatment therapy uses medications to kill the leukemia cells. Depending on the type of leukemia, you may be prescribed either a single drug or a combination of different medications.
The chemo drugs launch a war against cancer cells in the blood that are dividing quickly.
Once the type of leukemia is classified, the treatment is customised according to your needs. For the treatment of AML and ALL, a common chemotherapy procedure begins with induction chemotherapy followed by intensification or the consolidation chemotherapy. They are given in three phases, usually over the course of about two years.
Chemotherapy is planned in such a way that once the medications begin, the doctors monitor your body’s reaction to the drugs and your capacity to fight back. A cycle of chemotherapy treatment is then followed by a period of rest. You might receive chemotherapy daily for a week, and then rest for about three weeks without the medications. Doctors factor in the four weeks as one cycle. The rest period gives your body a crucial window of time to recover and build new healthy cells.
When chemotherapy does not help or is ineffective, your doctors will move on to the next line of treatment through high energy technology. Radiation therapy uses high energy radiation to destroy the cancerous cells in the blood. In those suffering from pain in the bones caused by leukemia cells damaging the bone, and where chemotherapy has not relieved the condition, radiation therapy plays an active role in reducing the pain. Radiation therapy is usually prescribed alone or along with chemotherapy, in some cancer cases. Radiation therapy or radiotherapy is sometimes administered as conditioning treatment to prepare a patient for a blood or bone marrow stem cell transplant. However, radiation therapy is not used in the treatment of ALL.
Our bone marrow is a factory that produces the different types of blood cells that allows us to live and survive disease attacks. These stem cells multiply and mature into red blood cells (RBCs), white blood cells (WBCs), platelets and the vital cells of our immune system.
Sometimes, when these stem cells themselves are diseased or defective, they need to be replaced. Leukemia can destroy stem cells and oncologists bank on stem cell transplant to replace them.
Stem cells can be collected or harvested directly from the bone marrow or they can be channelized to the blood stream from the bone marrow and collected from the blood. Stem cells can also be collected from umbilical cord blood of newborns and preserved for future treatment.
Stem cell transplant process is also used to replace blood-forming cells that have been damaged as a result of high doses of chemotherapy or radiotherapy. Stem cell transplant is of two types – autologous and allogenic. In autologous transplant therapy, the patient’s own stem cells are collected before the procedure and infused into the patient after high doses of chemotherapy. In an allogeneic transplant the stem cells are donated from another person, a genetically matched stem cell donor.
With 56 hospitals across the nation and over 10,000 beds, Fortis Healthcare Limited is a leading integrated healthcare delivery service provider in India. For over 26 years, Fortis Hospitals have been committed to the cause of getting people back to their lives faster and stronger.